Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

A still from the film "Black Russians."



Film Screening & Discussion. Black Russians: The Red Experiment by Yelena Demikovsky
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Important Note

Registration required. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community.  To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events.  Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. 

Please join the Harriman Institute for a screening of Black Russians: The Red Experiment and following Q&A session with filmmaker Yelena Demikovsky.


Filmmaker Yelena Demikovsky will present Part One of her new, much talked about documentary film project “Black Russians: The Red Experiment.” The film centers on the life trajectories of Black American sojourners in the Soviet Union during the first half of the 20th century. Inspired by the antiracist rhetoric of Soviet communists, these individuals fled American racism and Jim Crow segregation. But did they find the freedom they sought? Did they and their descendants harbor any regrets about that fateful decision to leave the United States? The film brings up the historical and personal complexities of these incredible life stories.


Part One (1-hour length) introduces the main character, Yelena Khanga, a well-known Black Russian TV personality of the 1990s through mid-2000s whose grandparents were among the hopeful migrants. Her historical narrative unfolds throughout the film. This journey begins with the turbulent historical events in the Soviet Union and America in the 1920s and 1930s.


Yelena Demikovsky was born in the Soviet Union and came to the U.S. in the 1990s. She is the founder of Red Palette Pictures, an independent film production company in New York City. Her immigrant experience brings a unique, cosmopolitan perspective to her films. Yelena is interested in characters who are passionate, idiosyncratic, and who live their lives to the fullest. They are resilient and committed, they remain faithful to their passions and beliefs regardless of social pressures and historical circumstances.


Demikovsky has directed award-winning documentaries such as “The Story of Fenist,” “Happy To Be So” and “Vera: An Intimate Sketch.” She has also directed and produced a number of narrative shorts.